Confronting Antisemitism Together



April 26, 2023

Hillel professionals and university administrators from all three cohorts Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative (CCI) gathered this week at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill to share their experiences and their best practices in countering antisemitism and creating safe spaces for Jewish students on campus. 

The Campus Climate Initiative is a core piece of Hillel International’s efforts to address antisemitism on college campuses across the country. CCI is founded on the principle that in order to successfully support Jewish students, there must be a partnership between Hillel professionals and university faculty and staff. In order to participate in the program, each campus applies with both the local Hillel staff, and the relevant University administrator. 

This convening of CCI participants was the first in-person gathering of all three cohorts. As Lisa Armony, Executive Director of CCI, shared, “It is critical to the work of these dedicated professionals that they be able to form a strong community of practice which allows them to better support each other and their Jewish students.” 

Dr. Kenneth Guskiewicz, Chancellor of UNC Chapel Hill, and Dr. Leah Cox, Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer of UNC Chapel Hill both shared their campus’s experiences with facing antisemitism with the support and knowledge that CCI offers. Dr. Cox highlighted how important it was to collect data from Jewish students about their experience with the campus climate. The data that was gleaned from UNC Chapel Hill’s campus climate survey informed trainings for faculty and staff designed to facilitate conversations about antisemitism. Chancellor Guskiewicz added, “Antisemitism has no place on our campus or in our community. We’ve made progress, but we still have work to do and it’s gatherings like these that help us get it right.”

Hearing directly from students about their experiences dealing with antisemitism on campus was another critical aspect to the convening. Two UNC Chapel Hill students, Maya Groff and Brendan Rosenblum, shared their encounters with antisemitic rhetoric from their peers and what they need from their Hillel professionals and university administrators in the aftermath of such encounters. Both students stressed that Jewish life at UNC Chapel Hill is vibrant and meaningful and that they are proud to be Jewish Tar Heels.

As keynote speaker, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education, Catherine Lhamon focused on the obligation that universities have to provide safe and bias free educational experiences for their students. Mark Rotenberg, Vice President of Legal Services for Hillel International, further emphasized Assistant Secretary Lhamon’s remarks with the question, “Why would a student feel comfortable sharing an antisemitic incident with their Hillel professional, but not feel comfortable filing an official bias report with the university?” He went on to explain that one of CCI’s goals is to ensure that Jewish students can feel equally comfortable filing that official bias report as they do in speaking with their Hillel professionals. 

In a conversation facilitated by Hannah Spinrad, Executive Director of North Carolina Hillel, U.S. Representative Kathy Manning (NC-6) shared that both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government are working to address the rise in antisemitism and engage higher education in that work. 

In reflecting on her experience with CCI, Dr. Kelly Schaefer, Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement at Northwestern University, noted that in this work, it is important to think about all the different levers that can be pulled to help students. Hillel’s unique partnership with universities allows for more possibilities and solutions to be considered in addressing antisemitism on campus. This gathering exemplifies that partnership and its potential to enact meaningful change for Jewish students.

To view media coverage from this event, click here for a piece from ABC11.